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How frequently do we hear public health practitioners claiming that they cannot do what is needed without more dedicated resources, and how often are we told that public health systems can only cope with three or four priorities? To which my answer is, which of the Ten Commandments is optional? And when we refer back to William Henry Duncan’s pioneering work in Liverpool in the 1840s and 50s, when it must have seemed that he would be overwhelmed by the cholera and the slum conditions, his response to Edwin Chadwick’s inquiry about his resource base was as described above. Public health is about mobilising and working through others if it is about anything. Duncan worked with the Health of Towns Association, with its preponderance of participants from the business community, the churches, other civic leaders, and even the occasional other doctor to mobilise those resources needed to tackle the threats to health.
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